Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

"Edible Optics" Could Make Food Safer

08.08.2008
Tufts University scientists have shown that it is possible to design biologically active, biodegradable optical devices – made from silk and needing no refrigeration - with applications in medicine, health, the environment and communications. For example, edible optical sensors could detect harmful bacteria in produce, and be consumed right along with the food if it were safe.

Imagine an edible optical sensor that could be placed in produce bags to detect harmful levels of bacteria and consumed right along with the veggies. Or an implantable device that would monitor glucose in your blood for a year, then dissolve.

Scientists at Tufts University's School of Engineering have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to design such "living" optical elements that could enable an entirely new class of sensors. These sensors would combine sophisticated nanoscale optics with biological readout functions, be biocompatible and biodegradable, and be manufactured and stored at room temperatures without use of toxic chemicals. The Tufts team used fibers from silkworms to develop the platform devices.

Tufts University has filed a number of patent applications on silk-based optics and is actively exploring commercialization opportunities.

... more about:
»Biomedical »Quality »Sensor »biodegradable

"Sophisticated optical devices that are mechanically robust yet fully biodegradable, biocompatible and implantable don't exist today," said principal investigator Fiorenzo Omenetto, associate professor of biomedical engineering and associate professor of physics. "Such systems would greatly expand the use of current optical technologies in areas like human and livestock health, environmental monitoring and food quality."

"For example, at a low cost, we could potentially put a bioactive silk film in every bag of spinach, and it could give the consumer a readout of whether or not E. coli bacteria were in the bag—before the food was consumed," explained David Kaplan, professor and chair of the biomedical engineering department.

The Tufts research was published in a recent paper in Biomacromolecules by Brian D. Lawrence, graduate student in biomedical engineering; Mark Cronin-Golomb, associate professor, biomedical engineering; Irene Georgakoudi, assistant professor, biomedical engineering; Kaplan, and Omenetto.

(http://pubs.acs.org/cgi-bin/article.cgi/bomaf6/2008/9/i04/pdf/bm701235f.pdf).

Optics – the science of light and its interaction with matter – has fascinated generations of scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton. Current optical device platforms are based primarily on glass, semiconductors, plastics or polymers. But the harsh solvents and extreme temperatures needed for manufacture make it impossible to incorporate bioactive sensing components into the devices. Chemical residues and lack of biodegradability also limit environmental and medical applications. Furthermore, biological components typically need to be stored at controlled temperatures to retain their activity.

The possibility of integrating optical readout and biological function in a single biocompatible device unconstrained by these limitations is tantalizing. Silk optics has captured the interest of the Defense Department, which has funded and been instrumental in enabling rapid progress on the topic. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Tufts a research contract in 2007 and is funding Tufts and others on groundbreaking projects that could someday result in biodegradable optical sensing communications technology.

Silk a Natural for Biocompatible Optics
Silk proteins are, literally, a natural for integrating optical and biological functions. They can be processed in water at ordinary temperatures and patterned on the nanoscale to generate a wide range of optical elements, including ultrathin films, thick films, and nanoscale and large-diameter fibers. Silk proteins also offer excellent surface quality and transparency, which are perquisites for high-quality optics. Equally important, they are mechanically robust.

"Silks spun by spiders and silkworms represent the strongest and toughest natural fibers known. They offer many opportunities for functionalization, processing and biological integration when compared to conventional polymers," said Kaplan, an expert on natural biomaterials like silk.

To form the devices, Tufts scientists boiled cocoons of the Bombyx mori silkworm in a water solution and extracted the glue-like sericin proteins. The purified silk protein solution was ultimately poured onto negative molds of ruled and holographic diffraction gratings with spacing as fine as 3600 grooves/mm. The cast silk solution was air dried to create solid fibroin silk films that were cured in water, dried and optically evaluated. A similar process was followed to create lenses, microlens arrays and holograms. Film thicknesses from 10 to 100 µm were characterized for transparency and optical quality.

The variety and quality of the optical elements compared favorably with conventional platforms and outperformed other commonly used biopolymers.

However, the most compelling feature of the platform, according to the Tufts researchers, is that the elements are prepared, processed and optimized in all-aqueous environments and at ambient temperature. This makes possible the inclusion of sensitive biological 'receptors' within the solution that stay active after the solution has hardened into a free-standing silk optical element.

No Refrigeration Needed
The Tufts team embedded three very different biological agents in the silk solution: a protein (hemoglobin), an enzyme (horseradish peroxidase) and an organic pH indicator (phenol red). In the hardened silk optical element, all three agents maintained their activity for long periods when simply stored on a shelf. "We have optical devices embedded with enzymes that are still active after almost a year of storage at room temperature. This is amazing given that the same enzyme becomes inactive if forgotten and left unrefrigerated for a few days," said Omenetto."

Researchers also found that it was possible to alter the propagation of light through the silk optic as a function of the embedded dopant to create an optical signal of the biological activity.

Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's schools is widely encouraged.

Kim Thurler | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.tufts.edu

Further reports about: Biomedical Quality Sensor biodegradable

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>